“Warm Bodies” Review: The Best Zombie Romantic Comedy Since “Shaun of the Dead”

Wesley Emblidge

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Nicholas Hoult in “Warm Bodies”

One of the reasons the entire “Twilight” franchise is so unbearable is how seriously it takes itself. The best moments in all the films are the few moments where the filmmakers take a step back and acknowledge how silly the whole idea really is. Getting the right tone is the main reason that “Warm Bodies,” the new film by Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness,” “50/50”) ultimately succeeds: it has a sense of humor.

R (Nicholas Hoult, “Skins,” “X-Men: First Class”) is a zombie, but not quite the kind we’re used to. “What am I doing with my life?” he thinks to himself. “I just wanna connect. Why can’t I connect with people? Oh right, it’s because I’m dead.” Even though we see R kill and eat people, he’s loveable, and that’s the best part of the movie hands down. Levine’s screenplay and Hoult’s performance both deserve equal shares of the credit for making a relatable character, probably along with the book the film is based on. R lives in an abandoned airplane cabin at an airport full of other zombies, and collects trinkets like snow globes or old records that make him feel human again. He can’t remember much of anything about his life, but when he eats people’s brains he gets to experience their memories. All R really wants is to be human again, to connect with people more than just the groans he makes toward his fellow zombies.

One day R and his zombie best friend M go out looking for food (as in people), and run into a pack of people who they kill and eat: except one. The moment R sees Julie (Teressa Palmer, “I Am Number Four”), something changes in him. He doesn’t want to eat her, he wants to protect her, so he takes her back with him to his home after everyone else in her group has been killed.

Before I go any further: yes, this is a zombie romance. Yes, this is a very groan-worthy idea, which leads to a few more kind of stupid plot elements later on as well. However, any idea can work if the execution is right, and that’s what Levine pulls off with a script that not only cares about it’s characters, but is really funny as well.

As the film goes on and R and Julie become closer, R takes on more and more human characteristics, starting to talk more and act a little more natural. This in turn has an effect on more and more of the others; they start to heal themselves. However more of the humans back where Julia came from, especially her father (John Malcovich), don’t believe it and keep attacking them. The film has a lot of Romeo and Juliet-esque elements, including one obvious homage with a balcony scene, and it really works well.

There are some little things that get annoying; the film is PG-13 so any time a zombie is eating someone is just silly, there’s some really bad CGI in places. Also, even though Palmer and Hoult have enough chemistry to make their romance somewhat believable, I didn’t particularly like her in the film, occasionally I worried she would veer into Kristen Stewart-esque territory, retaining the same expression for the whole film. Luckily she doesn’t, and actually has a character as well, something Stewart never had the benefit of.

If you can get over that core concept and just enjoy the film for it’s characters and great sense of humor, “Warm Bodies” is a nice break from not only bad romance movies but tired zombie attack movies as well.

 

4/5 Stars

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“Warm Bodies” Review: The Best Zombie Romantic Comedy Since “Shaun of the Dead”